Starting out

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by HunterMK1337, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. HunterMK1337

    HunterMK1337 New Member

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    Hi everyone,

    So I have pretty much just decided, following a major life upheaval, to start writing fantasy fiction. GO ME!

    I have a pretty thorough grounding in classic fantasy and sci-fi reading and am otherwise well read, but can anyone recommend particular writing guides/resources which might be useful to someone starting out? I already have myself an idea for an overarching theme for my first stab at making some material, and am starting to frame some rules about my preferred magic system, religions etc., but am unsure how to start getting those ideas out onto paper so I can stitch them all together.

    Sorry if this seems a basic question!

    Hunter.
     
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    You might check out the Writing Resources subforum. A lot of threads have been started seeking the same kinds of references, and you are likely to find enough there to get you started.

    I'd only add that, contrary to all common sense, having read widely in the genre will not be as big a benefit as you might think right now. I speak from my own troubled experience, lol. Having been exposed to great entertainment, many different books over years or even decades feels, at the outset, like a solid foundation but reading for entertainment is very different than being able to write it. This can be quite frustrating. Reading with an eye for how the stories were written, i.e., going back and studying what you've read or reading new books but with the same eye, can be a big help, however.
     
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  3. Incanus

    Incanus Shadow Lord

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    I think it is generally a good idea to be fairly well read in the genre you are choosing to work in. You need to know the ins and outs, what sort of things have been done, or done to death.

    There are boatloads of how-to writing books out there. I would start looking into them, choosing ones that fit, or that address areas you may be lacking in. Start immersing yourself in all aspects of storytelling.

    Also, start cultivating patience, and a nice, thick skin.
     
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  4. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I wish I could just point you to some resources and add a few tips of my own and everything will be easy-peasy. If you haven't really written before, it's hard to offer you guidance. Somethings you'll do well instinctively. Others, not so much.

    Some like to outline and plan everything. Others like to fly by the seat of their pants. And then there are those who are in between.

    For me, I found that learning about story structure helped immensely. It allowed me to break down the huge task of writing a novel into bite-sized chunks. It also allowed me to identify where in the story certain ideas best fit, allowing me to better organise my ideas. There are articles that you can access from the front page of the Mythic Scibes site that can help you on this as well as tonnes of resources all over web.

    Another thing I learned from the act of just writing and writing some more is the most basic form of story, IMHO, is this. Person wants X. Someone/Something stands in their way. Person tries and fails to overcome obstacle(s) multiple times, but eventually succeeds.

    A simple illustration of this is this old fairy tale about an old woman and her pig. You'll find it at the end of this link English Fairy Tales: The Old Woman and Her Pig

    Old woman has a problem, tries multiple solutions that fail until she finds one that works. Obviously stories can be way more complicated than this, but to me, above is the basic way to think about things. The complex grows from simplicity.

    Sometimes it's a good idea to try something and fail at it because it'll give you an idea of where you need help.

    Hope this helps a little. And keep asking questions. It's what this place is for.
     
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  5. Graceless Liar

    Graceless Liar Apprentice

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    This biggest thing is to write. And then write some more, and the after that write even more than you've already written. Writing stories is a skill as much as playing the guitar or drawing a picture, and you have to practice. Reading How-To's will help, but nothing will substitute for sheer time spent writing.

    Finish things. Be they short stories or novels a single finished product will teach you more above story-telling than a dozen un-finished projects. Not to mention, once you hit that goal line and see the "The End" is actually reachable, it becomes easier to finish things. Not easy, per-se, but easier.
     
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  6. The best thing I ever did for my skills and knowledge of writing was to WRITE. I wrote a whole book, not knowing much about how, but I did it. And I learned a lot. The final product was, um...horrid. But it taught me.
     
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    I'll throw a couple of ideas onto the pile.

    One, start making your own list of resources. It will be a big pile. Really big. That's okay, because here's what will happen. You'll read something and be all like ... wha? And you'll read another and it will be painfully obvious. Another one may have a tip or two, but a lot of it will seem simply not usable.

    You'll be writing, meanwhile. Time passes. You'll go back to this or that book or article, often because you keep hearing it mentioned. That one that seemed goofy or obscure or just not relevant. And pow. Sometimes it's a POW! but often it's just a pow. What didn't click before, clicks now. So you want to keep the Big Ol' List because you are going to grow and change as a writer, and what was old is made new again. I've experienced this in multiple endeavors.

    Two, wrt reading, I offer these words of wisdom: there's reading and there's reading.

    What, that's not enough? OK. FifthView said as much, but redundancy has never stopped me before. There's a gap the width of a career between reading as a fan and reading as an author. It's roughly the difference between how I look at a painting and how a painter looks at it. Or how you might hear a song many times, but once you learn about how music is recorded, engineered, mastered, and how it plays on various systems, you hear entirely new aspects.

    So yes, do read, but that's not enough. As the logicians would have it, the act is necessary but not sufficient. With practice, you learn to look just at dialog, or only at how setting is handled; rather like listening just to the bass line or to the horn arrangement. And for this, it is not at all necessary to read in genre. In fact, since I've started doing this, I've been surprised at how I have gained insights from very different kinds of books. Genre is the flesh and hair and tone of voice, but the DNA is pure story.
     
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  8. HunterMK1337

    HunterMK1337 New Member

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    Thank you all for the advice so far - really nice to get some input!
     
  9. psychotick

    psychotick Dark Lord

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    Hi,

    Bad news I'm afraid. The only way to get good at writing is to write. And I'm not a great believer in writing guides and how to's. (For my money they just screw up fledgling writers). Just jump in there and write. Write every day - even when you don't think you have something to say. And constantly go over what you've written. Do the usual checks - read what you've written out loud to yourself - it's not just a good way of catching errors, it lets you get a feel for how the story is working that you wouldn't otherwise. And then when you think you're ready, put some stuff out - say a chapter here and there - for others to review. (It hurts but it's the best teacher there is.)

    Also - and don't hate me for this - but there's a commonly quoted saying that to get good at anything requires about ten thousand hours of practice. For all but a very few of us, I suspect that this is roughly right.

    Good luck with your writing journey.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
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  10. Aryth

    Aryth Master

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    Wow, such great advice, thanks everyone! I know it was HunterMK who asked the question, but your answers really helped me out as well. Thanks for not sugar coating it!
     
  11. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Lore Master

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    Welcome, Hunter. This is a great site to learn about writing well.

    I've been a devout reader for more than forty years, and deeply involved in the study of writing for more than thirty years. I have subscribed to both WRITER'S DIGEST and THE WRITER for thirty years and have more than one hundred books on the art and craft of writing. But I didn't start writing until eleven years ago. Prior to that, it was all about reading the work of other authors and studying the art and craft of writing.

    I have a few suggestions on writing guides and self-help for writers that might be useful.

    Writer’s Digest has a good series on self-help for writers by various authors that I found highly beneficial and enlightening: Voice and Style; Characters and Viewpoint; Settings; Scene and Structure; Description; Beginnings, middles, and ends; Theme and Strategy; Plot; Dialogue; and Plot vs. Character.
    I have all these books and more, and found them very helpful.

    One of my favorite authors on writing well is Donald Maass. You might find it helpful to check him out. Here are just two of his well-written books: “Writing the Breakout Novel”, and “The Fire in Fiction”.

    Following, I will list just a few more books I found particularly useful:
    – Les Edgerton’s “Hooked”.
    – Robert Masello’s “Robert’s Rules of Writing”.
    – Jack M. Bickham’s “The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes” (and how to
    fix them).
    – William Noble’s “Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders”.
    – Marc McCutchen’s “Building Believable Characters”.

    I have too many to list here. But there is an endless supply of resources. Just keep an eye open for them and do some focused research. What you need is out there.

    But study alone is not enough. You must write every day, if possible. There is no better teacher than experience. So...write, write, write.

    All my best to you and yours.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
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  12. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Grandmaster

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    Since this has popped up again, I'll throw my opinion out there....

    Yes, you have to write, write, write, but the potential problem here is that you could get good at writing poorly. As you're spending time writing, you need to finish your projects, as someone else said, and then you need to share them with people who won't be afraid to hurt your feelings, who like the genre you're targeting, and who are good at communicating how they feel about what they read. You need more than just one or two of these readers; the more, the better. These readers do not need to be writers, and in fact you don't want them all to be writers. Writers will criticize your writing based on their own ideas of what good writing is. You want readers who will criticize your writing based on its value to them as entertainment.

    At the end of the day, if you write books that readers of your genre find entertaining, none of the so-called rules of writing need concern you. Every writer in the world could hate you, could scratch their heads about what you're doing, but if every reader of your genre loves your writing, then you're golden.

    That being said, many of the resources that others have mentioned are geared towards you finding a way to arrange your words to maximize the pleasure of the reading experience for the reader. Some might work for you. None of them seem to work for everyone. For me, I read the guides, I study what others have to say, and I take from it whatever connects with me at the current stage in my development as a writer. Some things make more sense later, as I think someone else mentioned already.

    My single favorite site for writing instruction and inspiration is K.M. Weiland's site: Helping Writers Become Authors - Write your best story. Change your life. Astound the world.
     
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  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    If going commercial, Robert McKee is well worth the read despite mostly being geared to the screenwriter, which is where I ended up reading his stuff many years ago. You can see his fingerprints in the story grid book, which is also quite good. He also has a dialogue book out which I haven't quite gotten myself to buy... mainly because I expect a lot to be rehash of what I learned when studying screenwriting... but if starting out and looking for info on dialogue, McKee and screenwriting books are a fine place to look.
     
  14. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Go to Amazon. Purchase (or use KU) to read some of the best selling books in the genre at the moment, mostly the ones that are similar to the type of book you want to write. Get a good feel and understanding for how those books are written now; how they open, how they climax, how they close, etc. Take notes. Compare those notes to your learning of story structure. Use the information to write your book. It's not copying–what you're doing is getting a general understanding of what readers like, expect, and need (emotionally) from those books. It'll help an immense amount down the road!
     
  15. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Lore Master

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    I'm pretty much in the same boat as you and here's what I did. First I started to read recent material in the genre/sub-genre I wanted. I looked at who the leading authors were in that area. Why did people like them so much? What were they doing that was different? What can I add to this Genre? I also read old material to see what new twists could be done.

    Then I watched youtube videos on those authors. I also watched Brandon Sanderson's lectures on writing Fantasy and found them very helpful. There are LOADS on youtube.

    I then used this article just to help me get started and as you said you ideas onto paper. How to Write a Novel

    So I'm still working my way through the steps of this article. I looked at several articles on this subject but this was the best one I found. So I hope this stuff was help to you.

    All the best x
     
  16. pmmg

    pmmg Grandmaster

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    Nothing beats putting some things on paper and getting a feel for it. You'll get feedback, you'll want to do it better, and then the writing books will suggest themselves.

    One thing I have always found, was that I suddenly became aware of everything that was wrong in my own writing in that moment just before I presented it to others. Work at getting that feeling a lot, and you'll start to get a good feel for how to improve.

    Also, make some friends, and they will help you all the way through.
     
  17. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    You've already got a great list of resources to start with and some sound advice to follow:

    1) I agree with Ronald on the Writer's Digest books. They're great for beginning writers. Donald Maas is flipping fantastic, but I'd recommend holding off on that one until you've got a firm grip on the fundamentals. Maas is a bit more advanced. Walk before you run.
    I'll add one that is more about the writer's life, but contains many pearls of writing wisdom, Stephen King's On Writing. It's an easy read, and one of the few writing books I've read multiple times.

    2) The AIC Rule is always solid advice. That's "Ass In Chair" & writing. There are no shortcuts to getting better at writing. You can only apply earnest effort and write...a lot. Write short stories. Write flash fiction. Plug away at a novel. While you're writing stories, learn a few new techniques and experiment with them in your current projects. Try out methods that are seemingly at odds with each other to discover which feel right to you. Absorb what is useful for the way YOU want to write and discard the rest. Develop your own set of writing rules designed to shape your brand of fiction. This takes time & it may change frequently as you find your voice.

    3) Find critique partners as Michael suggested. Grow a thick skin and realize that partners who can be honest with you are a treasure. Their honesty will help you improve if you view them as allies.

    4) Critique the work of other writers. This is one that is often hard to grasp for a beginning writer. So often, I hear beginners tell me they don't have anything to offer regarding critiques because they don't know enough about writing. While I understand the sentiment, it is absolute hogwash. Can you tell when you like or dislike a piece of writing? Lord, I hope so. If you can then you've got all you need within you...you just need to apply that gift.
    Read someone else's work. Point out what you liked or didn't like, and then go one step further. Try to figure out why you had a reaction. Here's where those fundamentals you're reading about come into play. Maybe you felt like your partner's story dragged in parts...tell them where, and why. Too much description? Action lacked emotional impact? THINK about the why... This alone will teach you so much, so quick.

    5) Next, make a list of your favorite books/authors. While you're gathering a team of critique partners go figure out why that story, or that author, effects you so deeply. What is it about a particular piece of fiction that burns away at your brain, or shreds your heart with emotion? Spend some time figuring out how that author accomplished this...and then emulate them. Steal from them guilt-free. Emulation is okay. You can learn a lot by attempting to write like your favorites while you're developing your own unique style.

    6) Last, but certainly not least. ALLOW YOURSELF TO SUCK. And, I'm not just telling you to simply be okay with mediocrity. I'm saying it's okay to really blow when you're starting out. In fact, most rough drafts of even the accomplished artists are piles of garbage. DO NOT...and this goes along with #5...DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO YOUR LITERARY HEROES. They've had the benefit of years of experience, multiple first drafts, and professional editing. So, cut yourself some slack and give yourself room to grow.

    I hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
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  18. Lisselle

    Lisselle Master

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    Hi, I am going to add to the cheer club for writing! Write every day, even if you aren't in the mood. Carry note pads with you everywhere you go, and never let an idea or thought go. Keep everything.

    Keep a writing journal or blog, and write in a personal journal.

    Practice different styles and genres. Try writing without any adjectives, skip adverbs, play with poetry and write a skeleton story so you can flesh it out.

    A great tip I read was to know your characters. There are plenty of '100 questions to ask your characters', I fill several questions out every day on any one of my characters. Knowing your characters allows their depth to seep into the story, and this is as important for main characters as for the silly sidekick who barely makes an appearance, to the wonderful support network around your MC, and the Antagonist along with his/ her community. I find that this is one of the best parts of writing.

    Write when you don't feel like it. Force yourself even if you have been at work all day, cooked dinner and feel as though writing is the last thing you want to do. You'll sit down to your World, and even twenty minutes of work will be beneficial. It's also good to write through anger, sadness or anxiety; any different emotion imparts a new perspective on your work.

    I also bought myself Body Kun & Body Chan artists mannequins and use them when drawing scenes, or to make sure my ideas work in a physical World.

    Good luck and have fun!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
     
  19. Seira

    Seira Apprentice

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    I would advice you to write at much as you can. Write a journal. Create a character and write blogs, diary enters in that character. Practice on voice and creating a stand-out one for yourself. Voice is really important in writing.

    Read well, not just in the genre you want to write.
     
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